“It’s not as bad as you think it will be”
“Your body was made for this!”
“You might actually LIKE labor”
“My labor felt amazing and really bonded me to my baby”
“Millions of women do it every day!”
“It will be over before you know it and you won’t even remember it”
Those are just a few of the reassuring phrases my friends and even people on social media shared with me to alleviate my mounting fears as the birth of my first baby came closer. So I took comfort in these words while I busied myself with preparing the most epic hospital bag(s) ever! Cashmere socks? Check! Fancy organic baby wash? Check! Super soft pillows, bedsheets & blankets? Check, check, check! (Oh yes, I was THAT girl with the rolling suitcase lol).
When the day came I walked, no more like happily BOUNDED, into a delivery room ready and so absolutely EXCITED to have my dream baby. And when I say ready, girls let me tell you I thought I was R-E-A-D-Y! After all, my pregnancy had been a dream, what I referred to as my unicorn pregnancy. After trying for so long the nine months absolutely sped by (at least after the first trimester). I was never sick, felt amazing, and heck even my hair had never looked better. The months were filled with me feeling like a walking miracle, and literal unicorns (See above). Hands down one of the best times of my life, if you don’t count my overly anxious moments. Sure I knew on some level that labor wasn’t going to be a glow filled love fest, but I knew I could do hard things, and after all, MILLIONS of women did this all the time, plus I would be walking out of there with my very own BABY!
I had all of my supplies (no less than three bags), including my own luxurious blankets and pillows. I had handpicked my own labor gown and robe so I could be picture ready for the adorable family photo all of my FB friends seemed to post after their labor. You know the one. The one where the dad is looking in amazement at his new baby with his arm around his glowing, angelic, slightly sweaty wife. After so many years of infertility, I couldn’t wait for that picture. You better believe that I wasn’t going to be in some boring hospital gown. I even had road-tested the perfect long wear makeup so I could look the right amount of glowy and radiant after pushing. (Seriously if anyone needs long-wear makeup advice I spent entirely too much time and money in my last trimester obsessing over this). My last text to my mom was that I had brought the wrong shade of lipstick and could she bring me a different one when she came. Seriously.
So needless to say, I considered myself prepared for labor as my husband took one last picture of me as I changed into my adorable lilac floral gown and hopped into the little luxe nest I had made on the bed.
What I was NOT prepared for is what happened over the next three days (or to be honest ten weeks).
Labor was HARD, seriously it kicked my butt! There were no angels singing, no rays of sunshine as I naturally pushed my little miracle into the world surrounded by smiling faces, and DEFINITELY no unicorns present. Instead, I spent the next three days in the most agony of my entire life. I was induced on a Friday and baby girl came that Monday. Not once had my OB even hinted it could take that long, and absolutely no one mentioned: “Hey you might want to eat a lot in the week leading up because you won’t have any food or water for almost four days”. You read that correctly. I went almost four days without WATER (thank god for the kind nurses that snuck me popsicles). I will spare all you readers the gory details of my actual labor (gorgeous labor gown and makeup were long ruined) however there are some things I wish I had known before they became my reality and crushed my illusions of a unicorn filled delivery.
Seriously. Labor can be DAYS long and most hospitals will not allow you food once you begin to labor in case of emergency surgery. Spend those last few days at home carbing up like you are about to run an extreme marathon! Once labor is over, IMMEDIATELY get someone to bring you food, as in ALL the food. You won’t feel like eating (especially if you have gone into any kind of shock which is more common in longer deliveries) however it is CRUCIAL for healing that you eat. I ended up a dehydrated, malnourished mess after delivery because I was in so much pain that I couldn’t eat for another three days (a grand total of almost a week I went without a solid full meal). Tell your partner or loved ones ahead of time to keep an eye on your food intake and to force you to eat if they have to.
- Your OB may not be the one to deliver your baby
This shocked me, especially because I had a very close relationship with my OB after she saw me through years of struggling with infertility and a loss. I felt like she was my teammate/coach/ friend all rolled into one. The truth is that even the best OB has to stick to their rotation schedules to a certain degree and when their shift ends (they are typically on for anywhere from 24-48 hours) they need to go home and rest/shower/eat/be with families. So if your labor is long, you may start with one OB and end up with a completely different one delivering your baby. It’s a great idea to see other doctors in your OB’s practice during your pregnancy so you become at least familiar with the person who may help you with the most intimate moment of your life. In my case, my OB arrived after being paged that I was FINALLY ready to push and she had an emergency come up with another patient so I had a complete stranger deliver my child in very dramatic fashion (baby was stuck after hours of pushing and we had emergency forceps delivery).
- Work your Core
You will be pushing and using your abs/back muscles more than you ever have in your life. Do yourself a favor and take those prenatal yoga/workout classes so your poor muscles don’t go into shock. Again, think MARATHON training.
- GET THE EPIDURAL (if you are planning on one)
I had some bizarre idea in my mind that I was going to wait until I was a certain amount of centimeters dilated before getting the epidural. I have no idea why I was trying to prove anything to myself. You are tough, you are strong, you are brave, so just get that shot in the beginning so that you can MAYBE get some sleep. Bonus: your body may relax enough to have a quicker progression into full labor if you aren’t screaming and tensing in pain every few minutes. In my case, I was stuck at three centimeters for over 48 hours despite every intervention possible. Once I finally caved and got the epidural, I progressed from 3-10 centimeters in under an hour.
- Don’t let fear make your decisions
This is a biggie. I ended up in the situation I was in because I didn’t trust my own body and let myself get carried away by my anxieties. Then once in the hospital and I wasn’t progressing, nurses kept telling me since my water still hadn’t broken, that I could go home and wait for my body to progress on its own. The idea of leaving without a baby at that time was against my “plan” and triggered my feelings of being a failure and something being “wrong with me”. I pushed through, chose to keep trying interventions, and didn’t listen to the cues my own body was sending that I was NOT ready. There were so many things the nurses shared and did for me, too many to list. Suffice to say they are ANGELS from above and after spending so much time with them, I am even Facebook friends with some of them. They have the best tricks for after delivery too so make friends and take their advice!
- You can do hard things and even impossible things
At every turn I thought “This is it, I can’t take any more” and a nurse told me something eye-opening in one of my hardest and most painful moments. Right when I said ” I can’t do this” she looked me square in the eye and she said, “You are already doing it”. That was such an “ah-ha” moment for me. Even in all of my pain, I realized I AM doing it. That phrase stuck with me well after labor and during my difficult recovery. I would often repeat it to myself.
- Stay in the hospital as long as possible
By the time I was released, I had been in the hospital for almost a week. I was still so weak, I couldn’t walk the three steps from the bed to the bathroom without assistance and hadn’t eaten a solid meal, but I convinced the nurses I was ready to go home. It was two days before Christmas and the thought of being in the hospital on Christmas was so depressing to me that I pushed to go home much sooner than I should have. As it was Christmas was a blur and I was back at the doctor and eventually ER on New Year’s Eve. Listen to your body and let go of any perceived timeline that you think you should be going home. Don’t forget there are incredible people helping you to care for your baby while you heal and try to rest. That ends when you leave!
It’s been ten weeks since my beautiful baby girl’s birth and I’m finally starting to heal and feel like myself again. While there were no unicorns for the labor, I’m happy to report there are plenty of them in her sweet smile that she gives me every morning.